It was great hanging out on the block today. Johnny ran into Uncle Father Tom Carey with Joe, so they came by & we stood on 5th street reminiscing & laughing. Then Johnny & I sat in the Village View playground & read our summer poem (Beowulf, in the Seamus Heaney translation). Coming back we ran into Sandy from Dolphin & the 6th St synagogue. When I did my laundry, I had an actual conversation with the tiny & old lady in the babushka who once walked around a tree in front of the bench where I was sitting, cursing me. I discovered she’s Hungarian but lived in Yugoslavia & her English is actually very good. The weather was late summery with a hint of hurricane. The kind of day that makes me happy without its being memorable.
I think it's that I was gone long enough that I'm entirely happy to be here. I had over 2 weeks to enjoy the beautiful city of Cuenca & it satisfied me. The weather in New York isn't the horrible heat/humidity I left & I feel strong from training at 8.200'. That's a perfect vacation, no? One you enjoy thoroughly & are happy to return from. Johnny missed me, Buster missed me, & I missed good bread.
Everything you don't want to hear is a lie.
~ Helen MacInnes, spy novelist of the 1940s & 50s, in Pray for a Brave Heart
How readily we wriggle out of hard truths. How easy to simply deny what's said. And believe we never heard it.
Let's see. Karate in Parque de la Madre, a last stroll around the lovely city of Cuenca, an excellent $2 shoeshine & a $3.50 almuerzo (lunch) at our favorite place, & off we went in a taxi to catch a van for the 3-hour trip down the mountains to Guayaquil. Then it was a long wait in the airport, a 4-hour flight to Fort Lauderdale, a long wait in the FLL airport, & a delayed 3-hour flight to LaGuardia. Taxi & 25 hours later, I was hugging my husband & petting mi gato. (Buster's best quality is his lack of injured dignity. He was happy to see me & instantly purred, skipping the traditional feline standoffishness.)
That was yesterday. I've unpacked, had a B&H breakfast, & plunged into the hundreds of emails that stacked up while I was gone. Manhattan was gorgeous & compelling when I flew in. Back in the life!
I’ve fallen for this Cuencan artist. He was responsible for the mural I like so much & today we went to his gallery, the first floor of his home. His wife showed us around, including some wonderful drawings on rice paper, both tender & forceful. I was too shy to ask prices. If I couldn’t afford them, my hopes would be forever dashed, & if I could, I would have to decide among so many that I liked. He also has a group of 8 murals at the Hall of Justice, right off Parque Calderon, so we trotted over there. The big picture, in each case, is striking, & the details are intricate & evocative.
Having heard all of this you may choose to look the other way but you can never again say you did not know.
~ William Wilberforce, early 19th-century British politician & philanthropist who worked to abolish the slave trade
Likewise, Martin Luther King Jr:
In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.
I’m saying this to myself & to anyone who wants to listen. It’s so easy to live in the immediate — we need milk, I have a dentist appointment, hold on the phone is ringing — or to feel overwhelmed when the need is great. No excuse. We all know that but we don’t all act on our knowledge. If crisis & danger were ever clear, it is NOW.
This is a snippet of a mural on a wall outside the governor’s palace or state building. Several walls insides are covered with portraits of provincial governors (all men, no surprise) going back at least 200 years (oddly, they don’t seem to be presented in chronological order except for some grandee types clearly from 400 years ago, all the way up at the top). There’s also an abstract ceramic mural inside, in shades of the rust & pink that make up most of the roofs of Cuenca.
If I could, I would post a picture of this whole mural, which I couldn’t stand back far enough from to take complete. In it you can see a panel of Panama hats, workers, corn and other ancestral food, doves, traditional occupations, and more, much that I don’t recognize.
Cuenca! you’ve won my heart!
I let the clocks run down
to stop you leaving
to stop time stealing you
goddess of longing
you ran from animal jaws
I ran to let you shiver
here in my arms
golden with longing
sparrows impatient to fly
branches of snow-ruined trees
clocks that lifted their faces
late and longing
we knew & let it go
we hovered away & back
we had one design
Looking closely is the only way to make it mine.
Much as I am enjoying Cuenca, & Ecuador, so far I have a relationship only with this bit of wall high up in the New Cathedral.
I could do nothing else than go in a church every day & have a great time.
I’m doing more! Seeing Cuenca, hanging out with people, doing karate in the park, reading William Carlos Williams, I may even cook one of these days. The only hard part is remember what day it is, what I meant to do or did. Read More
It is easy to love people in memory; the hard thing is to love them when they are there in front of you.
~ John Updike
Perfect quote for this trip, which was largely undertaken in order to spend time with 3 of my oldest friends. Steve & I met at the last big anti-Vietnam War demonstration on April 24, 1971, and have been close ever since. We are now in Cuenca, Ecuador, spending as much time as possible with Teresa & Billy, who I haven’t seen in quite a few years. That doesn’t matter. We are connected in a primal way & there isn’t a moment of fumbling to start talking. A lot of what we talk about is how our experience together affected us—transformed us—but we also are enjoying each other’s company in the here & now.
Here I am! Though I left New York on Wednesday morning, we only got to Cuenca on Friday afternoon due to Willis being delayed by weather in Atlanta. Going from sea level to 8,000 feet feels a little jet laggy so only now writing. First impressions? People in Ecuador are the kindest in the world. For example, everyone has been entirely patient with my attempts at Spanish (turns out it’s not even passable, despite the studying I’ve been doing).I have never seen such open smiles. Cuenca is a beautiful colonial city that reminds me of Spain, unsurprisingly. We are staying in a gorgeous huge apartment half a block from Parque Calderon. I probably could sit in the park & do nothing else this whole trip, and have a wonderful two weeks.
Packed? Pretty much. Passport? Mos def. Drink the water? Simon says don't & he's from there. Everyone else says yes.
Am I ready? I guess so. South America, here I come!
I'm expect to blog while I'm there but ya never know what my days will look like.
Canda munani! (Quicha for "love ya")
I lost the first one in a fight
that was all right
the gap balanced my gat-toothed grin
another couple rotted away family trait
that was all right too I stole from my father's grave
I donated a few to the chinese vase industry
& a chubby cherub winged another
wisdom never did strike so from 28 I was down to 17
next to go were the canines
they withered away when I gave up eating meat
as I grew vague & dreamy I had no further use for incisors
my lover swallowed several in vigorous kissing
& to give better head I had the rest removed:
gone gone gone
what you see now are pearls of great price
intricate carved scrimshaw from longdead great whales
a mouth replete with radio receivers television antennae ebony
cradles tiny camera miniature quill pen cuneiform tablet
each spot has a function disguised as a tooth:
I cook my mouth's garden in my mandible wok
1978 or 1979
Patriotism is animated by love, nationalism by hatred. To confuse the one for the other is to pretend that hate is love and fear is courage.
~ Jill Lepore, This America: The Case for the Nation
I'm pretty much packed, with all the codes, passwords, reservations, etc, sorted out. I'll be in South America in just a couple of days. I have no real frame of reference for this whole continent, unlike Europe, where I've been many times & where my people come from. I suppose Ecuador is no more like Peru or Argentina than France is like Germany or Italy.
Will I feel tall in Ecuador? I remember Markos & I in a subway car in Mexico City, talking over the heads of every other passenger.
I will try not to forget anything. As long as I have my passport & some money, I can get whatever I need. I always say that when I travel. Whatever I don't have, I can get. I was sleepy & nervous & despondent but today i did the laundry & errands, & now I'm excited to go.
I found this record—I'm sure I've never seen it before—in my office, not even behind a million things. Where did it come from? Do objects roll up like rocks in a field?
Still feeling low. Too much tRump. Still shocked at the racism & cruelty that feels overwhelming this week. This picture cheers me up. My beloved sister & brother, when we had all the future in the world. They are wonderful, then & now.
I've been thinking about the terrific band Cowboy Jazz. I had cassettes of their two albums, Swing Boogie and That's What We Like About the West. I've never found a CD or mp3 files. They were from Baltimore or DC area & I have no idea who turned me on to them. Three women singers & a lineup of sensational western swing musicians. I guess they're Asleep at the Wheel with women leads?
I bought a Tony Kosinec record because I'd loved him long ago but I hardly got through it - not even close to in tune & the songs were awful except for one, it had a car in it but I can't remember more than that.
All I do is recapture my old interests, it seems
My computer has been in the shop & now is like new, with a replacement trackpad & hard drive. It's almost exactly the same except for a a few glitches that I'm trying to fix.
Kid Sean came over & he helped clean my office & came with me to the Brickman for light-blocking film for my windows—& I discovered a spray paint that makes them opaque. I probably got a brain tumor spraying them today but now light gets in & people can't really make out what's going on in my office. Which is in a half-basement, putting the windows at street level. I've had black curtains for years. Right now I feel exposed but I think I'll get used to it.
I had class & Sylvie & Robyn & I went to a cool show on Ludlow Street, a young Pakistani-Canadian painter whose name I don't know, sort of a more vibrant Lichtenstein.
Sunday was beach training, a nap, & then we saw Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, which I liked much more than I expected to & it didn't seem long at all.
So this is, like, 10 blog posts rolled into one.
Make the wrong thing difficult & the right thing easy.
~ Bruce Nauman on breaking horses
but doesn't this work for politicians, husbands, kids?
if only it worked for cats:
how serene & unbitten my toes!
Det Norske Sovebiblioteket – The Norwegian Sleeping Library
a room on a street
to lie down with a book
lamp throws apricot light on the bed
we doze & drift & doze
Horace, a poet of another dimension,
orders a whiskey sour
I translated it into norsk with a little help from Tone & Berit (but not MUCH):
Det Norske Sovebiblioteket
et rom på en gate
legge seg ned med en bok
lampen kaster et aprikoslys på sengen
vi døser og flyter og døser
Horace — en dikter fra en annen dimensjon —
bestiller en whisky sour
I'm not a fashion maven, never have been, but I wish I'd been able to get to Spain for "Balenciaga and Spanish Painting" (through September, so maybe...). His incredible dresses are matched with, in dialogue with, really, works by El Greco, Velazquez, Goya, Murillo and others.
Hey look, I can get the catalogue, every garment & every painting, for only $75. That's a LOT less than a plane ticket to Madrid, though not nearly as fun.
This tale starts maybe two years ago, when both my home phone (a landline of 42 years) & office phone (also a landline I'd had for over 20 years) stopped working due to problems in the line. Verizon pretty much refused to fix them & so I switched my office phone to a cell (which is why my cell phone has a 212 number). I also kept paying for my home phone, $43 month after month, even though I couldn't use it. I thought about how useful it was to have a landline during blackouts & other emergencies & I kept hoping they would fix it.
Finally, a couple months ago, I canceled my home phone. There was a small amount I still owed but they told me don't worry about it. Which I didn't, till I got a bill from a COLLECTION AGENCY for $16.48. Verizon said they sent a bill but I never got it. Blah blah blah, on the line to customer service, then financial services, then customer services—& just when they were wiping it out, my phone dropped the link!
I could have written a damn check but I was mad—I paid my bill month after month & got nothing, & all I asked is that they spot me that last really minuscule amount.
Taking a breather before I call back to see what happened...... YES! They took care of it. At least something worked.
I'm feeling good about Esti lemon hummus
but not about much else